Photo of the Advanced Manufacturing class that designed and built the play structure

Adventist Health Columbia Gorge, formerly known as Mid-Columbia Medical Center, is proud to celebrate the 43-year anniversary of its pioneering on-site daycare, Great N Small. Founded with the vision of recruiting and retaining staff in the The Dalles, the daycare has grown into an esteemed institution. Unlike typical daycare facilities, Great N Small was designed to prepare children for school with a structured educational environment, inspired by the government’s Head Start program. This innovative approach was realized by employing certified teachers, ensuring that children received quality education from the start.

In 1986, only about 2,500 companies across the U.S. offered on-site daycare, with hospitals being the primary providers. Offering such a forward-thinking service in The Dalles was a groundbreaking move. Today, Great N Small boasts multiple generations of graduates, many of whom have returned to work for the hospital, continuing the legacy of community and care.

Recently, Robert Wells-Clark, CGCC's Director of Technology & Trades, identified an opportunity for his students while dropping off his child at Great N Small. Observing the previous playground in need of upgrades, he envisioned a project where CGCC students could apply their design, client relations, manufacturing, and fabrication skills in a real-world setting. The students from the college’s Manufacturing and Construction programs took on the task of designing, engineering, and constructing a new play structure. This included learning rules and regulations, designing collaboratively, fabricating unique components and ensuring the end product was modular, inclusive, and easy to modify or expand.

To enrich the educational impact, local high school students were invited every Friday to gain hands-on experience in the building trades, exploring potential career paths. Additionally, elementary school students toured the college’s facilities, discussing manufacturing and construction processes with the steadily growing play structure as focal point for the learning. This collaborative effort truly embodied the spirit of a community-driven project.

Financed by the Adventist Health Columbia Gorge Foundation, this year-long initiative benefits the children of Great N Small. Further extending its reach, additional grant funding has been secured to replicate the fabrication for a new play structure at Chenoweth Elementary, supporting their Head Start Program.

This project has touched countless lives, from engaging local college students in the design and fabrication project to providing safe play spaces for children at two locations for generations to come. It underscores the crucial role community colleges play in equipping students with the skills needed to thrive in rural communities. It also highlights the power of community partnerships in meeting shared goals.

Adventist Health and Columbia Gorge Community College held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 12, 2024, at 3:00 p.m. at Great N Small, located at 1719 E 19th Street, The Dalles, Oregon. The finished structure is behind the main building, and can be viewed by rounding the corner onto Oregon Street and looking left.